Who should decide what happens to a person's body when they die?

17 Nov 2015

Many people do not know who has the right to decide what happens to their body when they die. 

People often believe that if they leave instructions in their will regarding their funeral, burial or cremation, the instructions must be followed. In fact, the executor or administrator has the right to decide how to dispose of the deceased, without regard to any instructions.

This can lead to disputes when family members have different ideas about the funeral and burial of a loved one. 

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has released a consultation paper seeking the views of the public on funeral and burial instructions. The paper poses the question ‘Should the law be amended to allow a person to leave binding funeral and burial instructions?’ 

The Commission is putting several options before the public. One option is to make the wishes of the deceased person binding on whoever organises their funeral and burial. Another option is to require the person who disposes of the body to take into account the views of the deceased, and of persons close to the deceased, before making a decision.

Another option is confirming the current position in legislation. 

Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, the Hon. Philip Cummins AM, said “The question is whether the current law reflects the cultural diversity and complex nature of families today.

“The death of a person is distressing, which can be intensified and prolonged if the loved ones of the deceased disagree about the funeral and burial. Reforms to the law may help prevent and relieve distress.”

The Commission invites anyone with an interest to contact them or make a written submission by 21 December 2015.

Members of the public can download the consultation paper, and take a quick survey on funeral and burial instructions, at the Victorian Law Reform Commission website. 


For more information or an interview with the Hon. Philip Cummins AM please contact: 

Nick Gadd, Communications Manager, Tel: 03 8608 7824 Mob: 0425 862 119.

Date published: 
17 Nov 2015

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